Everyone enjoys reading a top ten list, right? And this month is all about Halloween and
one rotting orange pumpkin named Trump scary movies. So why not have a top ten list of scary movies, you say? But there are so many! So I will be dividing my list into decades and the first decade is, of course, the one I grew up in: the ‘90s. So put on your plaid, take out your Nirvana cassettes: it’s time to look at the Top 10 ‘90s Horror Movies.
Hocus Pocus (1993)
Let’s start off with one for the kiddies, shall we? This film was directed by Kenny Ortega, whom you might know better from the High School Musical trilogy (yes, there’s a trilogy), but it was also co-written by Mick Garris, whom you might know better as the writer/director of various horror films. Which is why this film is kind of a cross between kid’s fare (there’s a musical sequence!) and straight up horror (there’s a zombie whose lips are sewn shut).
The plot is pretty basic: three witch sisters are resurrected after many years when a virgin lights a black candle in their home and to stay alive past Halloween, they need a sacrifice of another virgin. Hijinks ensue, especially since the witches are played by Bette Midler, Kathy Najimi, and Sarah Jessica Parker.
Tales from the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight (1995)
As the first movie spin-off of the HBO show Tales from the Crypt, this movie tells an apocalyptic tale of demons and knights and has some pretty awesome cinematography and special effects. Can you believe the director went on to direct episodes of The Walking Dead?
The basic plot is: a man is on the run from demons because he possesses the last of twelve keys that will stop the end of the world. He ends up in an old hotel and then it becomes a demonic siege movie.
This movie is also filled with some awesome actors, from William Sadler as the main character, to Billy Zane as “the Collector,” and Jada Pinkett Smith and CCH Pounder as two people who work at the hotel.
The Prophecy (1995)
If you ever wanted to be scared of Viggo Mortensen, watch this film. He plays a pitch perfect Satan.
The basic plot is this: a bunch of humans get caught in a war between angels. Christopher Walken plays Gabriel, the leader of the “Second Rebellion” against God, who is looking for a lost soul, the soul of someone so evil that it could turn the tide of the war, but this soul has been hidden away by another angel.
Watch it for Christopher Walken, who is just generally awesome. Watch it for Viggo Mortensen, who will make your skin crawl. “God? God is love. I don’t love you.”
Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
So Gremlins was a fun little horror movie from the ‘80s that involved “mogwai,” cute little creatures that should never, under any circumstances, be fed after midnight or come into contact with water. What happens then? Well, they turn into gremlins, of course.
The second film in the Gremlins franchise, however, took things in an...unusual direction. Director Joe Dante wanted to make it more of a comedy and much more cartoonish than the previous one and oh my god does it show. Let me just include this clip from Key and Peele to explain:
The movie also includes Phoebe Cates from the first film, as well as awesome actors John Glover and Christopher goddamn Lee. It’s amazing. Watch it.
Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
And in the category of “movies that will creep the living hell out of you and then make you depressed,” we have Jacob’s Ladder, a psychological horror movie with a twist ending you might have already heard about, but is still pretty amazing.
The plot? Well, the main character, Jacob, starts to see demonic creatures. Sort of. Maybe. It’s hard to explain.
It’s also the film that most influenced the Silent Hill series and you can tell, from the way that the entire movie is shot to the slow build on creepiness, relying on just a few things being wrong, to just the general atmosphere of the film, to the infamous hospital scene. If you like horror movies that will make you slowly shit your pants, this is it.
From Dusk till Dawn (1996)
If, on the other hand, you like stealth horror movies — i.e. horror movies that don’t appear to be horror movies at first — then From Dusk till Dawn is what you should watch. For the first thirty to forty minutes, in fact, it’s not a horror film at all — it’s a crime film.
The basic plot is this: two bank robbing brothers played by George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino take a family hostage before trying to cross the Mexican border. At the border, to meet their contact, they stop at a strip club called the Titty Twister. Said strip club turns out to be staffed by vampires.
It’s seriously a lot better than it sounds, because the actors really make it work and Robert Rodriguez is a good director. Also: Salma Hayek as a vampire.
In the Mouth of Madness (1995)
Speaking of directors, John Carpenter directed three films which he called his “Apocalypse Trilogy”: The Thing, Prince of Darkness, and the final one, In the Mouth of Madness. It’s a Lovecraftian tale about the power of fiction.
The basic plot is this: Sam Neill is Trent, an insurance investigator, who is hired to find a missing reclusive author named Sutter Cane. Cane is a thinly veiled Stephen King-type writer and he sets all his books in the fictional town of “Hobb’s End” — except, as Trent finds out, it might not be so fictional at all.
This is seriously one of the best adaptations of Lovecraft there is and it’s not even an adaptation of anything.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
Speaking of metafictional horror films: how about a slasher film about a slasher film? No, not Scream (that’s not even on this list), this is Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.
What’s the plot? Well, Heather Langenkamp, the actress who played Nancy in the original Nightmare on Elm Street, returns to play...Heather Langenkamp, the actress who played Nancy. Time has passed since the role, however, and she’s tried to move on — but her husband has begun working on a new Nightmare film and she’s been having dreams about Freddy for some reason.
This movie is one of the most interesting slasher films of all time, mainly because it’s not a slasher. It’s a story about stories and the power they have over the people who act in them.
The Frighteners (1996)
Look: do you want to see Chi McBride as the ghost of a ‘70s street gangster? Of course you do. So go watch The Frighteners, a horror-comedy directed by Peter “I Have So Many More Middle-Earth Movies I Can Make” Jackson.
The basic plot is this: Michael J. Fox is a “psychic” who sees ghosts (although he actually does see ghosts, due to being close to death at one point) and who tricks people into paying him. However, when he realizes that the ghost of a serial killer has returned, he has to go on the offensive with the help of his ghost friends.
Overall, it manages to be both funny and scary, especially with Jackson’s quick, fast-paced direction.
The Faculty (1998)
And now for one of the most ‘90s horror movies ever. What if I told you there was a horror movie with Josh Hartnett, Elijah Wood, and Usher, and it was not only directed by Robert Rodriguez, but it was also written by the same guy who created Dawson’s Creek and Scream? Yeah, that’s The Faculty.
It actually holds up pretty well. It’s basically Invasion of the Body Snatchers crossed with Heathers and it works. A group of teenagers at a high school notice that the faculty of their school is acting strangely and then discover they have been taken over by aliens. What’s the solution? Surprisingly, it’s drugs.
The film is also memorable for one scene where The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart is stabbed in the eye with a pen.
And that’s my list for the ‘90s. Next up: the 2000s!